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17-Year-Old Made To Receive Blood Transfusions

This story first popped up on my radar via the Friendly Atheist blog, as many stories often do. In Australia, a young man (aged 17) has some form of cancer whose treatment involves receiving blood transfusions. He was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and compared receiving a blood transfusion to “being raped” due to his beliefs.

He was ordered to accept the treatment by the New South Wales Supreme Court. The decision was based in part by the fact that he had been “cocooned” in faith his whole life. He turns 18 in January, but until then is under orders to receive transfusions.

While I grant that it’s probably best to have a precedent in place which keeps parents from denying their children much-needed care, I don’t think it’s right to dismiss the intelligence and humanity of the minor involved. The way Mehta presents the information displays a bias against both religion–which we’re all pretty aware of at this point–and also disrespect for the autonomy of individuals under the legal age of adulthood. Here’s how he responded to the court’s decision:

“I think that’s exactly the right decision. While the line that distinguishes a child from an adult is arbitrary, it’s solid. Australia, like America, says you’re an adult when you’re 18 and this kid’s not 18. So there.”

“So there”? Look, it’s one thing to agree with setting a precedent that prevents ripples of harm, but it’s another to lack respect for the decision-making abilities of a person who is literally just months shy of adulthood.

I’m against religious harm as much as the next atheist, but I still respect individuals and their dignity. Mehta is not only dismissing the young man’s desires because of his religious affiliation, but also ignoring the fact that he’s a human person who shouldn’t be forced to undergo medical treatment he doesn’t want. All because he hasn’t been alive for quite enough months.

Would Mehta be equally dismissive of the situation if we were talking about a young woman forced to undergo an abortion for her own good? I should certainly hope not.

Preventing parents from killing their children with neglect is important. But it’s also very important to recognize the humanity and intelligence of nearly-adult minors. Mehta has displayed an utter lack of respect for minors and their autonomy. And the thing is: Mehta teaches kids about the same age as this boy. Is he really so oblivious to the intelligence and awareness of his students?

Or was he just trying to make a pithy joke and failing miserably?


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Lux is a female genderqueer weirdo, writing from Kansas. They happily identify as a militant atheist(+), feminist and liberal. Their time is consumed with Doctor Who, reading, and playing WoW with a cat on their lap. If you're lucky, you might catch them smithing jewellery or cleaning something.

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